When your close relationships need to change

Human beings are social animals for a reason. In evolutionary terms, close relationships were vital for our survival and in modern society, our mental and physical health and wellbeing depend on them. Positive relationships are associated with numerous benefits, such as:

  • higher levels of happiness and resilience
  • lower levels of conditions like anxiety and depression
  • more rapid recovery from illness
  • personal, academic and professional advancement

There is even some evidence that our life expectancy is influenced by whether we have a solid network of support around us. Consequently, close relationships need our constant care and attention. When, as happens for all of us, they suffer, we need to know the signs to do something about it, which is the subject of my latest blog: When your close relationships need to change.

When your close relationships need to change; Photo of people with supportive people around them.

When your close relationships need to change: Conversations

Families, friendships, marriages, partnerships and professional relationships – we spend a great deal of time being in and working on them. And at the heart of our interactions with the people most important to us lie our conversations. Close relationships exist in and through our conversations. They are the connectors that allow us to give and receive and critically where we find the evidence that those closest to us are meeting our needs and expectations – or not.

So the first sign that your close relationships need to change is when their conversations fail to make the difference you are after. Conversations that don’t give us what we need are missing specific qualities and characteristics, such as respect, support and, dare I say, a certain x-factor. So, if you know or suspect that one or more of your critical relationships is struggling, use my Conversations With Impact Questionnaire in the box below to help you understand why. Once you have this information, you are in a better position to change it.

Conversations With Impact Questionnaire

When scoring your conversations, consider the importance of each quality or characteristic to you. Choose a number between 1 and 7 (1=none at all, 7=all that you need) that reflects the degree to which a conversation possesses each quality or characteristic. If one is not essential to you, i.e. it makes no difference one way or the other, give it a 7. For those that are important to you, score it appropriately.

  • I trust the person
  • They understand me and what I need from them
  • I feel respected by them
  • They have the ideas, skills and knowledge I need
  • They do not judge me and accept me for who I am
  • They have the ideas, skills and knowledge I need
  • The conversation follows my agenda, not theirs
  • They believe in me and my potential for change
  • They give me the time that I need
  • I feel challenged by them in a good way
  • They respect my need for confidentiality
  • I feel they genuinely listen to me
  • I can say what I really want to them
  • They are truly interested in me
  • They help me to make sense of my situation
  • They help me set clear, realistic goals and strategies
  • They help me find solutions
  • My conversations with them make a difference
  • They have the X-Factor

Thriving and surviving

Each day, we all pursue one overall goal: to thrive and survive. Thriving and surviving allows us to make hay while the sun shines and tough it out when it stops, an ability for which our close relationships are critical. Therefore, the second sign that your close relationships need to change is when they hinder rather than help you navigate your way through life. Luckily, we have an in-built system that tells us whether we are navigating successfully – our emotions. Emotions are messages sent from our ‘emotional self’ indicating what it thinks about our current attempts at thriving and surviving. Positive emotions are how our emotional self communicates that it likes what it sees; negative emotions convey its concern.

So if a close relationship impedes or undermines you, your emotional self will encourage you to act by sending a negative emotion such as anxiety, low mood or anger—a helpful message delivered in an unhelpful way. Admittedly, this might initially worsen an already difficult situation, but guided by the ‘emotions as messages’ principle, you can tackle the issues in your relationship until your emotional self is happy and you feel more optimistic.

Looking after our patterns

One way to know if a close relationship is benefiting us is by assessing its impact on our patterns of thought, behaviour, feeling and relating. Predictably, healthy relationships will contribute positively to our patterns and unhealthy relationships negatively. So, if those close to you help you lay down supportive patterns (as below), this is a relationship to nurture and strengthen.

  • you think optimistically about yourself
  • you behave in life-affirming ways
  • you feel you are a person of value
  • you relate confidently and assertively

However, if trusted others negatively influence your patterns (as below), this is the third sign that your close relationships need to change.

  • you think pessimistically about yourself
  • you behave in self-sabotaging ways
  • you feel you lack esteem and worth
  • you relate unconfidently and people-please

The power of acceptance

One relationship characteristic that makes, perhaps, the most significant difference to our mental and physical wellbeing is when those closest to us completely accept us for who we are. When we are flying high in life, they celebrate our achievements, and when we are struggling, they put an arm around our shoulders. Relationships in which we can be who we want to be and behave in ways consistent with our values provide the best psychological nutrition. So the fourth sign your close relationships need to change is when someone in your support network stops providing that nutrition by failing to accept you for who you are. It can be painful and upsetting when criticism replaces acceptance, which is why we need to address it if we are to avoid potentially permanent dents to our self-esteem and self-worth.

The value of challenge

Challenge is one of those qualities that can make a life of meaning and purpose. Being challenged is how we realise our potential and achieve important personal and professional goals. When a partner or colleague challenges us, we know they believe in our potential to grow as a person or develop new skills, which is why many of us look to our close relationships as a source of supportive challenge. However, there is an art to challenge, making it tricky to find the right amount. Sometimes the people we are close to misjudge the level of challenge they provide even if this is not their intention. So the fifth sign that your intimate relationships need to change is when they provide either too little or too much challenge, making you feel either unmotivated or overwhelmed.

Personal transformation

Personal transformation is a given, not a choice, because we are transforming whether we like it or not – otherwise known as the ageing process! Ideally, this is a process we are in control of because being so puts us on the right journey for our desired destination. And for all of us, successful transformation depends on others to help, guide and support. When we have people who can and will, our journeys are more enjoyable and our destinations more achievable. Therefore, the sixth sign that your close relationships need to change is when they cannot or will not be partners in your transformation. Sometimes this isn’t personal such as when our biggest cheerleaders follow a new path in life, and sometimes it is when a confidant withdraws their support due to jealousy. Either way, we need to do a stocktake of our support to see if others can make up for our loss or if we need to find new people to be there for us.

When your close relationships need to change

I hope you have enjoyed my blog, Six signs your close relationships need to change. If this is an issue for you right now and you would like support, I’d love to hear from you. My IMPACT Model and IMPACT Programmes have helped many people transform their relationships.

To book an initial consultation, visit my Make a Booking page. You will have the opportunity to tell me about what you are going through and find out how I can support you. Even if you choose not to work with me, I promise your consultation will give you more ideas, knowledge and insight than you had before.